PEN Centers Condemn Belarusian Court’s Verdict in Trial of Writer Ales Bialiacki

PEN America, PEN Belarus, PEN Armenia, and PEN Moscow Make Joint Statement on International Writers for Peace Day

In response to news that Belarusian writer Ales Bialiacki was convicted to 10 years of penal colony, PEN Belarus, PEN Armenia, PEN Moscow, and PEN America condemn the Minsk City Court’s decision and call for Bialiacki’shis immediate and unconditional release. The four PEN centers make the statement from a Yerevan-based conference in honor of International Writers for Peace Day (March 3). Their statement serves as a clarion call for writers everywhere to demand peace at a time of devastating war and oppression.

The joint statement said:

“We write as writers and human rights defenders from the PEN network across the Eurasia region and the United States to jointly condemn the politically-motivated trial of Ales Bialiacki. Today, March 3, 2023, Bialiacki should be celebrating International Writers for Peace Day with his fellow PEN members. Instead, he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for his commitment to defending human rights in Belarus.

While PEN members gather for this historic convening in Yerevan—coming together for the first time in the spirit of cultural exchange and mutual understanding—Bialiacki’s imprisonment is a stark image of the very injustice we collectively oppose. As a literary figure at the helm of one of Belarus’s foremost human rights organizations, his work embodies the tenets of International Writers for Peace Day: free expression, literature, and peace. 

Bialiacki is one of countless Belarusians jailed since Aleksander Lukashenka’s fraudulent election spurred a government crackdown on dissent. Today’s verdict shows, that in Belarus the authorities defend Lukashenka’s dictatorship by making the defense of human rights a criminal act. We reject every step in the criminal prosecution of Bialiacki and call for his immediate and unconditional release. We condemn the arrests and imprisonments of all writers jailed in the Eurasia region and around the world. We urge writers everywhere to join us in commemorating International Writers for Peace Day because in times of war, we unite our voices in support of peace.”

Ales Bialiacki is a writer, the founder of the human rights organization Viasna, and a PEN Belarus member. In July 2021, he was arrested on politically-motivated “tax evasion” charges. The prosecution requested 12 years in prison, and he was ultimately convicted to 10 years of imprisonment on March 3, 2023. Bialiacki is one of three 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates. He was recognized alongside the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties. Together, the laureates demonstrate the significance of civil society in promoting peace

International Writers for Peace Day is honored annually on March 3 to unite writers’ voices and demand peace from those with the power of war. This year, PEN America, PEN Armenia, PEN Belarus, and PEN Moscow gathered in-person for the first time to celebrate International Writers for Peace Day in Yerevan, Armenia. The Day was established alongside the formation of the Writers for Peace Committee at the 1984 PEN Congress in Tokyo.